Welcome one and all to the finals of the very first ‘A Crunchyroll of the Dice!’ As always, before we begin, I give you … a quick reminder of the rules:
- The winning semi-finalists have been paired up for battle, and I will now be watching episode four of each anime
- If the series has multiple seasons, Istick with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show has made it through
This is set to be the most chilled out battle of the tournament with Flying Witch and Amanchu!, both very laid back series, duking it out for the top spot. Both shows have been strong throughout thus far, with them both taking a twelve-point clean sweep in round one, and then both finishing strongly in the subsequent rounds. Though Amanchu! has thus far amassed the most points, Flying Witch really can’t be discounted. So, let’s get things rolling!
It’s cherry blossom time, and as the show’s fellow finalist has done before, the cherry blossoms are beautifully animated. Chinatsu tells Makoto that she’s more beautiful though. Is it uncharitable to think that she may be after something? She does apparently love the Cherry Blossom Festival, and lists a few foods that she likes, so it could be that she’s angling for some treats. Chinatsu prefers food to flowers it seems. The trio spot Hirosaki Castle and Makoto asks to take a photo, which Kei starts to set up, but the girls want him in it to so they accost a little old lady and her dog to take the photo. The lady obliges, but after she’s walked away, they realise that she managed to crop the castle out. D’oh!
The opening credits roll, and I still can’t help swaying along with the music. There’s at least one character shown that we haven’t met yet, a witch with dog ears and a canine-esque face, which kinda leaves me hoping that we’ll get to meet them in this episode, and then move on to having the other characters return from there on in. Thus far, the show has been good at the quick introductions, and made use of only having a small cast on show at any one time to give each one some proper time. Kei’s parents have given them some money to use, and they head straight off to satisfy Chinatsu’s gluttonous needs. On top of her earlier list, she has decided that she also needs cotton candy as it tastes like ice cream after a bath, and without this she cannot possibly have fun. So does she mean after she’s had a bath or after the ice cream has had a bath? Anyway, she gets her way and then asks to do the lottery, but Makoto spots a haunted maze and suggests that they do that instead. Chinatsu seems up for it, but Kei is a big wuss.
Moments later, they all scream and run out, with Chinatsu pointing out that Makoto got them lost inside. Kei tries to put on a front, but the girls see through him with ease. Meanwhile, out in the middle of nowhere, a lone fortune teller sits with a little white mouse, talking about how she has no customers. The mouse is cute, and it’s called Al. Suddenly, a polar bear turns up to ask for its fortune. As it turns out, it’s actually Chinatsu with a massive cuddly toy. That was pretty funny. Kei apologises and says that she did it to brag after winning the un-winnable lottery. Makoto sits down to get her fortune instead and the teller asks for her name. Being a child, Chinatsu knows no boundaries and asks the fortune teller first if she’s a girl, and second why she has her whole body and face covered. She continues with non-stop questions like, how old are you (older than you, the teller replies), why did you become a fortune teller (because she could), and can I touch your mouse (no and it’s a hamster … whoops, my mistake. It seems I’m as perceptive as a small child).
Makoto has written her name down … and the fortune teller starts go a bit crazy. She gets a crazy eye, an ominous purple glow, and asks Makoto for her complete contact details and family history. I guess she recognises her name from somewhere? Chinatsu says that she must be crazy, and Kei asks if it’s a scam, but the fortune teller is barely phased by such things. With Makoto refusing to give over her details, she switches tact and asks her outright if she’s Akane’s sister. Ah, now things are making sense. Makoto is impressed, and thinks it’s part of the act, and the fortune teller gets excited. She says that she knows Makoto is a witch, and says that she is too. She has been here for five years it seems, and something happened to her at last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival … Flashback time! Akane is drunk, of course, and talking to Inukai, who I think we can safely assume is the fortune teller. Yup, she is, and she’s also drunk. They ramble on a little, and Akane says that her sister may come to live there and asks Inukai to be her friend if she does. As a thanks, Akane wants to show her something magical that she made recently. Drunk magic? I can’t see this going well.
Back to the present, and Inukai starts to roll her sleeves up and open her hood. She reveals her canine appearance and exclaims, ‘How am I supposed to live with this body?’. Chinatsu’s reaction? To yell, ‘Cute!’ That’s a bit of a change to her normal reactions. To be fair though, Inukai does look less freaky than the Harbinger did, and knowing that she knows the family probably relaxed her a little. Plus, she’s in a good mood because she’s high on food, scares, and lottery wins. The flashback returns and Akane is brandishing chocolates that can turn people into animals. It’s advanced magic, but Akane managed to do it while just messing about! She doesn’t know if they work though and asks Inukai to try one, but she declines.
We cut to the next morning, and Inukai is asleep on a bench in half-human, half-animal form. Some birds fly down and peck at her tail a little, and it swishes around to shoo them away. I have to say, that swish was immaculately animated. It was a short, simple thing, but it was so smooth! Inukai wakes up unsure where she is and unable to remember anything. She runs her hands through her hair in her hungover stupor and feels animal ears. A quick walk to the river later and her reflection confirms what she has become. Back in the present, Chinatsu starts to play with Inukai’s ears (completely ignoring Kei telling her to stop), and Inukai confirms that she turns back into a human at night. She continued to tell fortunes in the same spot as she had hoped that Akane would come back. She apologises for her earlier conduct and asks Makoto if she can put her in touch with Akane. Much to Inukai’s upset, Makoto tells her that there is no way to contact Akane and that nobody knows where she is at any time.
Back home, Kei and Chinatsu’s Mum is sat out in the back room. Chinatsu strolls in with Inukai and the Mum isn’t fazed at all. Much like her daughter, she thinks that Inukai’s appearance is cute. Mum goes off to make tea, and Inukai quite rightly brings up how unsurprised she was. Chinatsu says that it’s because old people aren’t easily surprised, but personally, I reckon it’s just that she has witches in the family and so sometimes has some odd guests here and there. Makoto retrieves a book from her room and brings it to Inukai. It’s a guide to magic to turn animals into people. That’s not a bad idea actually. Makoto wants to reverse Akane’s spell as it could be months before her sister drops by again. She also feels some responsibility as she and Akane are so closely related. Inukai points out that it’s a pretty advanced spell that she’ll need to perform, and Makoto tells her not to worry as she’s not simply using this as an opportunity to learn or try something that she’s always wanted to, she is in fact taking it very seriously.
We get a spell making montage of sorts, and the muggles proclaim it to be all very witchy, which Makoto points out is because she is a witch. Bubble, bubble, rainbow poof, and Chito the cat spots Al the hamster and gives him a dark look. Makoto finishes up and appears to have made multi-coloured candy. She says that it won’t cure Inukai entirely, but should allow her to temporarily become human during the day. Everyone stares at Inukai and she tries one of the candy’s … but it turns her into a full dog! Ha! Kei, much like me, is struggling not to laugh out loud now while Makoto apologises profusely. The spell wears off relatively quickly, and Makoto decides to just let Inukai know when Akane next drops by … and as if by magic, a wild Akane appears!
Akane overhears Inukai telling Makoto that she’s nothing like her sister and interjects herself to disagree. And now poor old Al has another cat to contend with. Akane asks Inukai why she’s here and says that she promised to read Akane’s fortune this year. As she wasn’t in her spot, Akane just went around the Cherry Blossom Festival herself and had a blast. Inukai is suitably shocked and makes an adorable little squeak during this. Akane offers some food, and is faced with an oversized scary Inukai face. Inukai tells Akane that she made her look this way and as a result, her life has been a constant struggle ever since. Akane is surprised by this and tells her that she did it to herself. We jump to another flashback, this time with Akane and Inukai stumbling drunkenly over a bridge. They collapse on a bench and Inukai starts chewing on a skewer and begging for snacks, but Akane has no more money and so can’t oblige. Suddenly, Inukai remembers the chocolates. Akane tells her that she can’t have them and that she was only joking when she offered them up earlier. Inukai retrieves them anyway and ignores Akane’s warning that she’ll turn into an animal. In fact, she doesn’t mind the idea at all, as her name, Inukai, means dog, so she’ll happily be a dog. Akane tries to stop her, but Inukai is far too drunk to listen. We jump back to the present again and find out that when Inukai first saw her appearance, she was actually overjoyed … then fell asleep again and wouldn’t wake up. The effects will wear off, but it won’t be any time soon.
Night rolls in and Inukai apologises before leaving. Akane confirms that she’s been looking for a way to turn her back too and will get in touch if anything comes up. Inukai returns to human form for the evening and, much like in the rest of the episode, we don’t get a clear shot of her face above the mouth. Everyone says goodbye, and Inukai floats off on her broom. Kei says that Inukai is totally his type, and Akane says that it’s irritating that she’s actually cute. Meanwhile, way up in the sky, we finally see Inukai’s face as she tells Al that she’s going to need to lay off the alcohol and apologise formally some other day. The episode ends with a shot of Inukai flying over the Cherry Blossom Festival at night. It’s a beautiful shot to end on, and really does illustrate why people are usually so enamoured with the idea of visiting a town during such an event.
We open on a flag blowing in the wind. Hikari is giving Futaba a lecture, and tells her that when she goes diving she must bring a diving suit, shampoo, conditioner and a diving logbook. Oh, and spare pair of silk underwear with a strawberry-chocolate design, pink ribbons and lace. Wait … what? She actually has a pair bunched up in her hand too. Granny appears and asks what they’re talking about before things can get odd, and we move to the opening credits. That was easily the strangest opening to any of the Amanchu! episodes thus far. Anyway, we’re back to a relaxing guitar piece and Futaba observing some actual scuba diving. Granny remembers Futaba and is happy to see that she is friends with Hikari. We learn that Hikari is going to be an instructor for the divers today, but that Tawashi is going to be the main guide. Tawashi runs a diving shop nearby so Hikari is only the sub-guide, but she dreams of being a pro instructor one day. That she has a vision for the future impresses Futaba greatly, and she can’t help but see Hikari as amazing.
The guests today are a pair of (literally) red haired people, a male and female. Hikari explains that you have to buddy up when diving so that you can help each other out. Futaba starts to take it all in, and Hikari starts checking her equipment with Tawashi. Futaba has no idea what they’re doing, but she does think that it all looks cool, so that’s a good start. She watches the two pupils go through the same checks, and then … they put on novelty headwear (a kappa for the male and a monkey for the female). This episode is getting odd! Hikari explains that the water is chilly, even in April, so the headwear acts as protection against the cold. They all head into the water, leaving Futaba behind to stare at the water in awe. There was almost a hint of fear there too I thought.
Later, Granny is busy smoking and telling Futaba about the ocean. She says that it’ weird here because from April to June it has a spring murkiness to it, caused by the multiplying phytoplankton. She says it’s a little like pork soup, and loses a lot of its visibility. Futaba, harking back to episode one when Granny told her that there was a world of fun out there, asks if the ocean would really be fun to see at a time like this. Granny says that this time of year brings the ocean to life. Fish come to feed on the plankton, bigger fish come to eat the fish, and gradually, all sorts of lifeforms start to appear. Futaba is impressed, and Granny tells her to learn to dive before the murkiness goes away. She says that visibility is probably under a metre today, and Futaba starts to panic for Hikari’s safety, but the diving team come back just as she starts to freak out. It was a difficult dive apparently, but fun. They all switch tanks and go straight back in. Futaba ponders how much fun they’re having and starts to think about the idea of having a ‘buddy’.
Later, the divers are all washing their gear down, and Hikari asks Futaba if she was bored waiting. She says no as she had a lovely chat with Granny, and tells Hikari that she’s decided that she wants to hurry up and dive. Hikari goes all Happy-Zippy, but gets distracted by the sight of something on top of the water tap. It’s balled up and wet … it’s Hikari’s spare underwear! The female student goes to pick them up, but Hikari grabs them in a panic, and the two stare at each other. The guy comes over to see what’s up, and Hikari panics more, hiding the underwear behind her back. She looks at the girl with a pleading look and nods a few times, trying to signal her what to do, but the girl is confused. I can’t say I blame her. Eventually, she moves back, smiles, and nods, and Hikari thinks that she’s got it. I think I can see where this is going … the girl smiles, and walks away, patting the guy on the shoulder, leaving him confused too. OK, that wasn’t what I expected at all.
As a side here, that was surprising. With the sudden addition of underwear, I expected things to suddenly descend into fan service territory, but the show managed to handle that without doing so. Instead, we got a sense of embarrassment for Hikari, which continues to build on her usual happy-go-lucky attitude being (at last in part) a front to hide her insecurities and worries. So, we cut to the bathroom and Futaba says that it was a close call. Hikari, now wrapped in a towel, is happy though as her underwear is safe. She opens the undies up and … they turn out to be the monkey headgear! Ha! That, I did not expect! We get a mini recap of the events and get a snapshot of the female student’s thoughts throughout: ‘So you want the monkey hood that badly? Sure, girl. It’s. All. Yours.’ Hikari is incredibly embarrassed, and asks Granny for the customer’s numbers. Excellent! That was some wonderfully surprising comedy there.
School comes the next morning, and it’s time for Futaba’s pool practice. The weather is good, and she’s nervous, nervous, nervous. Hikari does her buddy checks, and declares her all clear. Adviser extraordinaire, Katori, then says that she’ll do Hikari’s checks, leaving Futaba to bemusedly think on how the checks weren’t very buddy-buddy. Anyway, Futaba is struggling a little under the weight of the tank, but Katori says it will seem lighter in the water. Futaba gets in and the others tell her what to do. She’s still nervous, but she starts to dive anyway. While Katori and Hikari just go straight in, Futaba moves a lot more slowly and only barely makes it underwater as we hit the half way point of the episode.
We’re back with Mr Kitty, rolling along the edge of the pool. Suddenly, Futaba pops up out of the water. She’s coughing and spluttering because water got in her mask. Katori tells her not to let it bother her as diving mostly involves mouth breathing, and that she can get used to the water first. Futaba says she’s OK, but you can see that the experience has knocked her confidence a little. Fair play though, she keeps going for it, even though she keeps having to get up into the air again. Then she starts to think about what it would be like if she were ten metres down, and diving starts to seem less fun. Again though, she tries again, and even mange’s to successfully pull off a mask clearing technique. This heartens her a little, but the mask fills again and she ends up back above the water again. Katori and Hikari discuss that Futaba may need the mask a little lower or that her hair may be getting trapped and causing an opening, but Futaba decides to leave the pool. Hikari is adamant that Futaba can do it if she tries, and that if she doesn’t try, then that’s the only way that she won’t be able to do anything.
Hikari’s words cut through Futaba’s head and draw her to a flashback of being a small child, sat scared on the floor while others rush by. She’s been scared so many times before but been unable to put it into words, and always just gives up without trying. She tells Hikari that she’s scared, and Hikari takes her hand and tells her not to worry. The two go down together and Futaba’s mask starts to fill again, but Hikari moves it down and it stops. Futaba now feels a lot better about the whole experience, and is amazed to think that she’s now breathing underwater. She swims along, enjoying the sensations, and she and Hikari move along to the deeper pool. Futaba is still scared, but decides that she’ll be OK because Hikari is there with her. Hikari points up, and Futaba looks up to see the sun shining through the water above. The pair swim up and Hikari is overjoyed that Futaba managed it. The two have a high five and it looks like that’s where the episode will end, but we get a bonus scene instead. Futaba is now struggling to leave the pool because, as Katori says, drysuits absorb water and get really heavy. Methinks Futaba needs to hit the gym! We cut to outside the school and hear the splash as Futaba falls back in to end actually end the episode.
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. The categories are: Best Story Progression, Best Character Progression, Best Individual Scene, Best Character, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
This is an interesting one, because neither series has a major overarching storyline to follow through. In broad terms, you could argue that this comes down to Makoto’s development as a witch vs. Futaba and Hikari’s developing friendship. In that respect, both take things at a leisurely pace, letting the character developments lead things along in a very deliberate manner rather than just throwing stuff at the viewer. So how did these plotlines develop this time around? Well, Makoto added a new friend to the cast list and did attempt a new spell, albeit unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, Futaba and Hikari grew a little closer with Hikari taking the weight a little with helping Futaba deal with her insecurities. Neither did more than the other, so I can’t really call this anything other than a draw. Best Story Progression: Draw
Flying Witch relied on the newly introduced Inukai here for the most part. We learned a little about her relationship to the family, how badly drink affects her, and learned what her plight is. We also got to see Makoto trying to do something because she felt responsible despite not being at fault, meaning that we learned how she views her own role in the family and in particular in relation to their collective actions. With Amanchu! we focused on the two leads. Futaba continued to show her own insecurities and her reliance on Hikari, but this time she actually managed to accept that she lets herself down with not trying when she’s scared. Taking the plunge (literally) while still scared was a big step by her even if it did rely on Hikari’s presence. Meanwhile, the whole underwear panic with Hikari was a great way to throw some comedy in while showing that Hikari can sometimes lose her cool around other people, and that without her normal coping methods, she is a bit inept with making herself clear. The thing is, Flying Witch took some small steps really, especially as the Inukai saga was really an introduction rather than progression, and Makoto’s steps forward were only minor. You could say that, in the grand scheme of things, Hikari and Futaba’s steps amount to much the same, but given that there was two of them, that edges it, albeit slightly. Best Character Progression: Amanchu!
So, there were some clear favourites for me here. Inukai’s tail swish really stands out, because the animation looked fantastic to me. It didn’t really achieve much in terms of moving the episode along, but it was beautifully done. Meanwhile, Hikari’s underwear panic and the monkey hood pay-off genuinely made me laugh. I really want to give the points to Amanchu! because that scene felt more important, but I’m going to go with Flying Witch because it made such a short piece of work stand out so much. Best Individual Scene: Swish-Swish (Flying Witch)
While the cast of Flying Witch remains thoroughly likeable, there can really only be one winner here. For giving a great show of not only reliability and support for her friend, but also a wonderfully human bout of comic embarrassment, Hikari is the clear winner. Her positivity is infectious, and when she stumbles, she does so in such an entertaining way. Best Character: Hikari (Amanchu!)
Both shows clearly have their own styles here, and both pull them off to a high standard. While the ‘Best Individual Scene’ winning tail swish is probably the best piece of animation in the comparison, Flying Witch also deserves some credit for the ending shot of the Cherry Blossom Festival. That was so well drawn, and it really draws the eye. Amanchu! may not have had anything that individually stood out over the swishing tail, but whenever it hit the water or sky, it was wonderfully consistent in its beauty. So what wins out? A good show with two stand out moments, or a show that consistently showed how pretty it can be? Honestly, I’m hard pressed to choose here so will call it a draw. Best Animation: Draw
Both shows approach this slightly differently. Flying Witch uses little in the way of background music, but places what it does unobtrusively. Amanchu! used a fair bit more music this time, and it was definitely apparent over the VAs, but the pieces chosen certainly added to the individual scenes. The thing here is that I can’t actually recall too much music from Flying Witch this time around. Amanchu! though, I remember creating a clear ambience. For that, the divers take it. Best Soundtrack: Amanchu!
Final Scores: Flying Witch– 4 points, Amanchu! – 8 points
And so ends the first ever ‘Crunchyroll of the Dice!’ This has been a wonderfully enjoyable final for me with both shows bringing their A-Game. While Amanchu! managed to replicate its semi-final win with an 8 – 4 victory, Flying Witch really did put out an enjoyable episode here too. In all though, the result was clear. Up next, I’ll be posting a full analysis of the tournament and how the results played into the overall picture. Until then though, thank you so much for sticking with me through this mammoth undertaking, and I hope it was as enjoyable for you as it was for me! Until next time, thanks for reading!